Amazon fires dozens of Prime Air employees, looks to other manufacturers for its drones

Amazon has been developing its drone program for seven years now. While it recently appeared to be edging closer to completion, a new report suggests the project has just stumbled, with dozens of staff laid off and the company looking at external manufacturers to help build the devices.
Citing a person familiar with the its plans, the Financial Times reports that Amazon is laying off employees in the research, development, and manufacturing arms of the Prime Air program.

The publication adds that Amazon is now talking to Spain’s Aernnova Aerospace and Austria’s FACC Aerospace about taking over the creation of its drones’ components, though nothing has been finalized yet. The retail giant has also sent requests for proposals to other firms, so it could soon reach agreements with more third-party manufacturers.

An Amazon spokesperson has confirmed Prime Air’s “reorganization,” describing it as a way to “best align with the needs of our customers and the business.”

The source also added that Amazon’s dream of regular drone deliveries was still “years away,” though development is expected to continue “slowly but surely” at the start of next year.

Amazon is still advertising for staff to work in its Prime Air division, with 57 open roles on its recruitment site, most of which are software and systems-related.

The news comes as a bit of a surprise, considering it was only a few weeks ago when the Federal Aviation Administration granted Amazon approval for drone deliveries. The FAA allowed the company to start testing its drones in US airspace in 2015, but there were limitations to what it could do, including drones remaining within line-of-sight of the pilot and observer. After being issued a Part 135 air carrier certificate, Amazon is allowed to carry goods on small drones “beyond the visual line of sight” of the operator.